March is the time to look for our first young birds of the calendar year in the Yukon. A number of our resident birds are already busily preparing to nest: Raven, Great Horned Owl, Boreal Owl, Canada Jay, Bald Eagle. But the earliest of all are crossbills! As this article from our Spring 2021 Yukon Warbler explains, crossbills can and will nest at virtually any time of year if there is enough food (spruce and pine cones) available. Previously we’ve had juvenile Red Crossbills appear at feeders in March. Often the math tells us they must have been nest building, incubating eggs, and even feeding young in the nest in bitterly cold winter weather!
What can you do? If you see either Red or White-winged Crossbills, try to look closely for juveniles. They will be brown and heavily streaked underneath, as shown in the photos in the Warbler article, and in this video taken by Don and Sharon Russell (featured in a previous Yukon Birds Facebook post). These young birds will likely be in the company of one or both parents and may be begging food from them. Bird feeders are a great place to spot these, as the parents have probably been frequenting your feeder for weeks while nesting, and naturally will want to show their newly-fledged youngsters where the feeding trough is!
If you do find young Crossbills, please make a note of your observations and try to get a decent photograph. The best place to do this is on a citizen science web site such as eBird or iNaturalist. By doing this you are contributing to a permanent database of bird information that is invaluable to scientists and the general public. If you don’t use either of these, maybe this is the time to start! Failing that, you could post your observation on the Yukon Birds Facebook Group or email it to the Yukon Bird Club.